Teacher Feature #5

ImageName: Emilie-May Hubbard

Nationality: British and French

 How long have you been teaching? 

I’ve been transmitting the love I have for English language and British culture for 19 years now. I started teaching children when I was a young student. Our sessions were mainly based on having fun, discovering genuinely English traditions and cultural features. I then realised how English language was perceived and sadly automatically associated to a scholastic subject.

What are you teaching? 

EFL/ESL English in companies

What certifications do you have? 

Initially I didn’t want to be a language teacher or trainer but was venturing out on a more artistic venture as I wanted to be an Art Restorer (which I am also today). Therefore I decided to officialise my British nationality when passing my History of Arts degree with the Open University . In the meantime I continued to help children and young adults by giving English sessions and sharing my knowledge, as sharing is key to me and then taught as an independent worker.

How did you get into teaching English? Where are you currently working? country, school, companies, etc.

I gradually switched from teaching kids to helping adults and then had the chance to work for training companies and language schools for working people. As a result I was given the opportunity to become a Key Account Manager and Pedagogical Assistant in a training company in the Paris Region called ‘Business Class’. I do realize fortunate I am to have such a position and to be able to continue training too.

How long have you been working there? 

I have been working for Business Class for more than a year now and as the company is successful, we deal with more and more requests which are always made-to-measure.

Where else have you worked?

 In other training companies as an independent trainer.

Where do you prefer teaching English? 

I prefer sharing cultural and idiomatic aspects of the language in companies.

What do you love about teaching English? 

Helping trainees to gain self-confidence and making them realize that they can enjoy speaking English.

What are the advantages to teaching for you?  

Learning a language is a real eye-opener for trainees who discover other ways of addressing communication and encountering enriching people. The world is your oyster as we say!

What are the disadvantages to teaching for you? 

The training can be too short and frustrating for both learner and trainer. The trainee acquires knowledge and ease but has to stop once the allocated number of hours is over.

Do you like teaching English?  Why? 

Meeting great people from miscellaneous backgrounds. As a trainer you are constantly learning new things having to adapt the sessions to specific fields or diversified positions.

Do you do another job? 

Yes, I’m very lucky to have another job I also love. I am an Art Restorer, I more precisely restore paintings under the independent worker status.

Thanks so much Emilie-May for your insightful interview about teaching English in France.:D  Hope this helps someone.

Teacher Feature #3

Name: Cynthia T. Luna

Nationality: Swiss, American, Trinidadian cyn pic

How long have you been teaching? 

I started teaching formally in September 2012. Once started, I realized that I have been teaching in one way or another all my life.

What are you teaching?

I teach mainly Business English to young international undergraduates from all over the world. In February, I also started teaching Communication Skills to the same students in their second semester.

What certifications do you have?

I have an M.Sc. in Communications (Public Relations) and a Bachelor’s degree in French language and literature. I also have a professional interest in the written word, as well as an interest in the personal growth that takes place when you realize that you are no longer translating from your mother tongue into a new language, you are actually thinking in it! (I’m also in the process of learning German–the language of my new home.)

How did you get into teaching English?

Rather by chance. I needed to find a way to return to Switzerland for personal reasons and stumbled upon an ad for a part-time English teacher. One thing led to another.

Where are you currently working? What kind of contract are you working under? How long have you been working there?

SBS-Swiss Business School in Kloten-Zurich hired me to teach English to first-year undergraduates as a Freelance Instructor. It’s part of their academic credo to have instructors with real-world experience impart their experience and knowledge to young people. The idea is that instructors keep their day job, while teaching one or two two-hour classes per week. Contracts are up for renewal right before the beginning of each semester. I’ve been with SBS since September 2012 and just started teaching Spring semester courses in February 2013.

Where else have you worked?

I have traveled quite a bit around the United States. When I lived in Washington, D.C., I worked for a few advocacy organizations where I provided publicity and PR support for initiatives that were important to me. After a few years, I also moved to the island of Maui (Hawaii) where I headed up communications for a community media television station that launched several interesting initiatives involving building community support and adopting social media tactics. Just prior to moving to Switzerland, I was part owner and general manager of a start-up restaurant–what an experience!

Where do you prefer teaching English?

Wherever and whenever lively conversation takes place.

What do you love about teaching English?

English has become the lingua franca for so many, I have noticed. Add to the fact that American media — so widely exported — has over decades managed to cultivate a wide and varied audience. I am amazed to hear that a Swiss girl who lived in the Philippines loves Twilight, and of course, don’t forget the South American fellow who grew up in Europe who absolutely loves Star Wars. And who doesn’t know that Mr. Bond likes his martini shaken, not stirred?

What are the advantages to teaching for you?

Still being connected to what’s going on in the world around you. It’s also a great exercise towards learning and remembering what ultimately motivates people to do things. I am constantly looking for ways to keep lesson materials fresh and engaging to encourage conversation in the classroom. I wasn’t a fan of the top-down, one-way communications lesson model when I was a student, and I’m even less of a fan now, as an instructor. The students seem to respond and learn better from a two-way model.

What are the disadvantages to teaching for you?

Teaching is so important, yet the pay doesn’t really entice some of the world’s most talented and knowledgeable people to carve out some time from their lives to share their wisdom with our youth. The pay makes one wonder why as a society we seem to value the profession so little.

Do you like teaching English? Why?

I love teaching English, and I’m so thankful to have such an intimate and varied relationship with the language. There is a precise word for so many things. I love how English has historically drawn from Latin, Saxon and Greek influences, and continues to draw from other cultures today. I love being able to tell a native French speaker, for example, that we share words with them.

Do you do another job?

Yes. I also freelance as a communications/PR consultant and write articles and blog posts for small publications and small and medium-sized businesses. I’m always on the hunt for new challenges.

I want to give a very big thank you to Cynthia for sharing her rich experience as an English Language teacher.  You should check out Cynthia’s blog over at http://www.livingincyn.com.  There you’ll find interesting posts that Cynthia writes about food, culture, writing, and of course living life to the fullest in Switzerland.

Teacher Feature #2

stephanieName: Stephanie Thomas

Nationality: French-American

How long have you been teaching?

I’ve been teaching in France since 1996, though not always to the same public.

What are you teaching? EFL/ESL

I’m teaching EFL to middle school students. Having done both, I have to say I’ve always been a bit dubious about the EFL/ESL distinction.  English as a foreign language is meant to be for people living outside of English speaking countries, and English as a second language for those living in a country in which primarily English is spoken (think teaching little French kids in Normandy VS teaching Mexican laborers in California–just an example)I think the ESL/EFL distinction is artificial and our focus as teachers has a lot more to do with the WHO and the WHY. Who are we teahing and why do they need to learn English? Do they know why (think those little French kids again) ?

What certifications do you have? 

Besides a Master’s degree, I have a *TEFL certificate and a *CAPES.

How did you get into teaching English?

Unlike a lot of people, teaching English was my first choice. Of course, back in college, I thought I’d be teaching literature and writing to native speakers! Never mind. Girl meets boy and they move to France. Girl gets job teaching English. And likes it.

Where are you working? country, school, companies, etc.

I’m working in a French middle school, in the private system.

What kind of contract are you working under?

I have a permanent contract. It’s so permanent that we call ourselves “lifers,” except in this case, I can decide to leave the “prison” through the front door while I still have some dignity left.

How long have you been working there?

I started in September 2012!

Where else have you worked?

I worked for a couple of training companies offering mostly business English courses, from 1996 to 2008. Afterwards, I set up on my own for a few years–it was financially rewarding, but I missed having colleagues and someone else to call up late payers.

Where do you prefer teaching English?

My favorite courses were small groups in companies, probably for the social aspect as much as anything. I also liked intensive one-on-one courses–just a week with a good set of really precise objectives. That was fun.

What do you love about teaching English?

In my current position, the students can be really endearing, and their breakthrough moments are really special. When a kid gets up in front of the class to talk about his last vacation, and he’s red as a beet and stutters through it–it’s very satisfying to see him smiling at the end, proud. It takes a lot of hard work to get even some of the students to that point!

What are the advantages to teaching for you?

Teaching in companies allowed me to more or less set my schedule, particularly with individual students. I never had to worry much about missing a day, as we could always reschedule. This flexibility was really important to me as my family grew (and grew…). In the school system, I like having a set salary and lots of time off with my kids.

What are the disadvantages to teaching for you?

Again, corporate language training was much different from school teaching. I loved teaching adults, but I think being privy to certain personal information about my adult students (they tended to share freely) made the job challenging in ways I wasn’t equipped to handle. I don’t mean to be enigmatic, but it was largely these “intimacy” issues that drove me out of corporate training. In my school, I also have access to information about my students, but I think it helps me understand them better and teach more effectively. Sometimes it’s just plain depressing, though.

Do you like teaching English?  Why?

I like it most days. I can think of things I’d rather be doing, but they don’t pay for plane tickets. I like to think I’m making a difference to some of these students, igniting an interest or uncovering a talent.

Do you do another job?

I’m a devoted wife and mother of 4 awesome kids; these are the things, I hope, I’ll be remembered for. That… and my irregular verbs rap. It rocks.

*TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language.  TEFL is one of the certificates required to teach English abroad.

*CAPES stands for Certificat d’Aptitude au Professorat de l’Enseignement du Second Degré.  This French diploma is needed to become a civil servant teacher in middle and high school.

Big thank you to Stephanie for sharing a bit of her teaching experience with us.

2. EFL Series: Vocab Rehab

Poor vocabulary and lack of motivation to read the written word are some of the principal causes for slow progress in oral and written comprehension in English.  This is the case for most levels and all ages.  Teachers are constantly trying to devise new ways or to create beneficial lessons that enrich vocabulary, while captivating the attention of their learners.  Not an easy task you say, but I look at it as an ongoing challenge throughout the year.  There are no right or wrong ways to proceed.  The main goals are to not expect the learners to acquire more than ten words per lesson and principally to keep it fun and interesting.  This doesn’t mean they can’t see more than ten words.

Here is the lesson plan I used in my workshop that I do in my daughters’ school for a small group of French students in 5ème (that’s 7th grade for US).  Firstly, I explained that they would see a video which contained only music no speaking.  They seemed to be reassured by that.  Their job would be to observe carefully, not writing and not speaking.  I then allowed them to watch a second time.  After, I gave them mini white boards so that they could write anything that they could name in the video in English, absolutely anything i.e. tree, man, chair and so on  I also allowed them to write words in French if they didn’t know them in English.  So, finally we arrived at the third viewing of the video.  I periodically stopped the frame so that they would have time to visualize and to write the words they knew.

This video is simple and has quite a lot of things they should know in English at this level.  Of course, this is where the difficulty begins.  The learners and I suddenly realize all the words they don’t know, but as the teacher I try to keep them focused on what they do know for the moment.  After we’ve completely viewed the video for the third time we spend a few minutes talking about the video.  I try to illicit responses in English by asking some general questions:

Where is the young man?

What is he doing?

What is he going to eat for breakfast?

Where does he go?

Then we look at the words they wrote on their boards in English first.  I try to focus on what words seemed to come up on all the boards and which ones didn’t, especially easy words that they should know like postman, mail, pool, women…Then we look at the words they wrote in French.  I first ask aloud if anyone knows what the word is in English.  Surprisingly enough others know but didn’t put it on their board.  It’s great when the kids can help each other.  This gives them confidence and encourages team work.  As for the teacher,  it’s a chance to go over spelling, plurals, and to spell in English.  Spelling aloud in English is still a bit challenging for them at this level because they confuse the E and I and G and J.  They also forget how to say X, K, R and Y.

By the time this part of the lesson is finished I’ve already made a list of the words they don’t know on the board.  I then give them a worksheet with statements about the video.  They have to decide if the statements are true or false.  I verify they understand what true and false mean and then we continue the lesson.  I have each learner read a sentence and they say whether they think the statement is true or false.  The others can agree or disagree.  They must say why they disagree even if the language is simple, but it must be in English.  As we go along if they aren’t so sure of the answer, I open my laptop and put on the video so that they can verify the images for the correct answer.  They really do love this part and it allows them to reuse some of the vocabulary we went through before because it’s on the board.  Not to mention, they really do have very good memories.

At the end of the lesson the learners have to write the list of vocabulary words they didn’t know on paper.  Their homework is to choose ten of those words and write a sentence with each one.  When they come back for further workshops in the year I will have time to work on the other words on the list gradually.  So, there you have it!  Give it a try using any type of video.  If you can’t find one that is silent or that just has background music just turn the sound off.  Your learners will love it and so will you.  Look below for the link of the worksheet and video used for this lesson.

Breakfast Prepositions Video worksheet

1. EFL Series: What a dollar can do!

I have learners of all ages but this lesson came to me after surfing the net looking for things to put on one of my Pinterest boards.  I ran across a picture of a ring made from a dollar bill.  I then set out to find a clear and precise video explaining how to make this ring dollar bill ring.  I just knew that this would be an interesting successful lesson to motivate three students that I teach in a group.  Finally after a thorough search on You Tube I found someone explaining how to fold a dollar bill into a ring.  I’ll link the video below.

Firstly, I made a list of important words needed to follow the instructions to fold the dollar bill.  Keeping in mind these key words can be used to fold origami as well as be used to express other everyday ideas.  Since these students are 12 and 13 I tried to make the list of words short and sweet.  Here’s the list I used:  crease, fold, edge, tuck, lift up, corner, faint, layer, pop outward.  The last word pop outward is a little complicated but it was better to show them what it meant to avoid any comprehension problems.  I made a definition worksheet which contained these words and their meanings in English that they could keep for future use. You can also illicit other ways we use these words and maybe your learners will ask what they mean like mine.  One asked “What does you’re living on the edge mean?” You can explain what it means to be tucked in at night.  you can ask your learners if they have ever felt faint, etc.

After the explaining the key words, the learners watched the short You Tube video and then I gave them a dollar bill so that they could follow along the second time they watched the video.  Before starting the video, I explained to the students that thy were to watch the video and that they couldn’t ask me any questions until the task was completed.  They could help each other in English and ask me to backtrack the video as needed.  I paused the video at times to give the learners a chance to do the folding.  During this process I didn’t speak.  I didn’t want the learners to be distracted from the video.  Once finished they had a ring and a dollar bill as a souvenir of the class; really cool for them.  Evidently, you’re not going to give all your learners dollar bills to do this lesson.  What I suggest is to get some nice decorative paper ie. gift wrapping paper or just plain white paper.  Cut it to the size of a dollar bill, which is approximately 15,5cm x 6,5cm.  If you decide to do it with white paper you can get your learners to decorate the rings themselves.  In the end you get…

Lots of fun this lesson.  You can then carry on by dictating how to fold an origami bird, the crane.  Give out some white paper cut into squares or use origami paper which can be bought in a local craft shop.  Don’t worry it’s affordable. The crane is one of the easiest animals to fold and then you can see how much your learners have understood of the different commands.  You can even make it into a competition of who folded the neatest bird.  At the end of the lesson you give the learners the definition worksheet and a copy of explanations on how to fold the

crane, which you can see below.  Voilà, you have an easy, fun, original, and certainly entertaining English  lesson.  For a longer lesson you can replay the video and go over what was said and explain any vocabulary or expressions not understood.  Give it a try and have fun teaching while your learners are having fun learning!

How to make an origami dollar bill ring

Blue Angel Literally

Saturday’s book club meeting went very well.  We always seem to have thorough, interesting discussions when the book is bad.  Ok, maybe bad is a bit strong – uninteresting.  That sounds better.

This novel is set in a fictitious secondary ivy league school(nobody’s first choice).  It’s small,  extremely expensive and the main character is a professor of creative writing (with tenure).  Actually, we weren’t sure how this character could have tenure only teaching one course and not really respecting his office hours.  It’s basically a story about academic life, relationships between professors and students, and how some men could react in a midlife crisis.

The good thing about this book  is the writing style of Francine Prose.  It flows and she writes well as a man who thinks a little too much of himself; who at times seems to behave like a headless chicken.  That’s contrary to the highly intelligent person he thinks he is.  The worse thing was that the story was totally predictable once you’d begun the first 60 pages.  That was a first for me.  All in all, I say read it at your own risk of wasting your time.  My book club is reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.  We’ll be meeting on March 27 to discuss it.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will be a better read than Blue Angel, especially since I hate circuses.